Victoria’s $5.3 billion social housing investment is a step towards addressing the State’s Aboriginal homelessness crisis, according to Aboriginal Housing Victoria.

The Andrews Government’s recently announced Big Housing Build initiative will construct over 12,000 new homes, 9,300 of which will be social housing.

A spokesperson for Aboriginal Housing Victoria said the Big Housing Build will see about 1,000 of these new homes allocated to Aboriginal families.

“It is estimated that an extra 5,085 Aboriginal housing units would be needed by 2036, just to maintain existing social housing levels in Victoria. This announcement by the Victorian Government will have a significant impact in meeting these needs,” said the spokesperson.

A grant of $35 million in upgrades, repairs and refurbishments for Aboriginal communities was also announced this week. Led by Aboriginal Housing Victoria, the project is to be delivered by a consortium of 18 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs).

“The announcement of $35 million … will see upgrades, repairs and maintenance of existing properties, as well as a number of new builds, that will improve the quality of housing, increase the number of properties available and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of our tenants,” the spokesperson said.

Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gabrielle Williams said the Victorian Government’s focus is on self-determination.

“These projects mark another big step toward embedding self-determination into the Aboriginal housing sector while doing the vital work of providing a roof and a sense of security for those who need it most.”

“Now, more than ever, ‘home’ means stability—and staying safe. These projects are providing new and improved housing for Aboriginal Victorians and local employment for businesses hit hard by Coronavirus,” Minister Williams said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Build is about recognising that everyone deserves a place to call home.

“This will change lives—giving thousands of Victorians the security and stability of a home, and tens of thousands of Victorians a job,” he said.

According to Aboriginal Housing Victoria’s Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, in 2019, 17 percent of the State’s Indigenous people sought assistance from homelessness services, with 44 per cent of those already homeless.

At the same time, 4,143 Aboriginal households were on the waiting list for social housing, almost the same number as were accommodated by public housing and AHV.

To address homelessness in the State, the Andrews Government funded the Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort (Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home) report. It provides a 20-year agenda for homelessness in Victoria.

The Aboriginal Housing Victoria spokesperson said the report’s funding was a “significant recognition of self-determination” by the Victorian Government and that the Big Housing Build and maintenance grant will go a significant way in helping achieve the key objectives of Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort.

Victorian Housing Minister Richard Wynne called the Big Housing Build “unprecedented”.

“We’re delivering the biggest investment in social housing Victoria has ever seen—we’re not just investing in bricks and mortar, but the lives of Victorians for decades to come,” he said.

By Sarah Smit